SHANNON Airport has formally entered a new era free from the DAA - and free of debt.
Government reforms aimed at reviving the airport’s fortunes took effect on January 1, while the merger of the new airport company with Shannon Development land assets is due to be completed within six months.
Rose Hynes, the new chairman of the Shannon Airport Authority, is looking forward to the future with confidence.
“Today is Independence Day for Shannon - this is a historic day for us. We finally have our long awaited freedom to determine our own future. Independence is the single most important enabler of future success for Shannon. This is an opportunity for the airport to commence a new chapter in its proud history,” commented Ms Hynes.
Also welcoming autonomy, airport director Mary Considine said: “We are setting out today to create a vibrant and sustainable future for this airport, its staff, customers and the wider region.
“Our attention will immediately focus on growing passenger numbers at Shannon. We have an excellent start thanks to significant announcements on transatlantic and European services over the past two months which will already result in an appreciable upswing in passenger numbers next year,” Ms Considine said.
Among the new and expanded services announced for Shannon in 2013 have been on routes to Chicago (United Airlines), Philadelphia (US Airways) and Faro (Aer Lingus).
The first aircraft to land at the airport after it officially became independent was Aer Lingus EI 110 from New York JFK, which touched down just after 5am on New Year’s Day.
To mark that piece of history, Dervilla Donohoe, a passenger from County Sligo returning from the States, was presented with two tickets to the US from Shannon courtesy of Aer Lingus.
All passengers who arrived in Shannon on “independence day” were served refreshments and cupcakes commissioned for the day, carrying the theme for separation - “Just Think How Far We Can Go”.
While rebuilding passenger numbers to 2.5 million by 2018 remains the priority, work continues early this year on attracting new business to the proposed International Aviation Services Centre around the airport.
Clare’s Deputy Michael McNamara said “legislation is in the process of being drafted which will provide the legal basis for the merger of... Shannon Airport with Shannon Development in 2013. Crucially, this will retain the airport in public ownership and allow it to develop new routes and attract more passenger and aviation business”.
“The Finance Act will elaborate on the commitments contained in Budget 2013, to put in place measures to facilitate the construction of hangars and ancillary facilities to attract aviation sector organisations, as well as new funding sources for airlines, aircraft financing and leasing. 2012 has been a good year for Shannon after years of inertia by previous governments,” commented Deputy McNamara.